Dedicated to helping the undocumented of San Juan Capistrano, Mission Basilica’s Immigration Ministry has provided free consultation with lawyers, workshops on immigrant rights and visits from the Mexican Consul.
On two Tuesday evenings a month, a little over a dozen people have been meeting outside the Basilica with the goal of raising public consciousness about the plight of the undocumented. It is tied in with the Faith Justice Prayer Walk, jointly sponsored by the Interfaith Justice Collaborative and Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano.
“The American people are so busy that they don’t know what’s going on,” said walk attendee Blanca Mejia, who was born in Ecuador.
“The Prayer Walk’s other purpose is to let the undocumented community know we stand by them and are here to help,” added Silvia Vargas, a volunteer with the immigration ministry.
A recent meeting began as ministry volunteer Sue Connor welcomed the group with the following words:
“We pray for a change of heart and mind that leads to an inclusive global family where there is no war, no gun violence, no racism, no violence against women, and the welcoming of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.”
Attendees were asked to take a moment to prepare and share a petition of their choosing and to select a sign from a collection on the lawn. Signs included: Faith Justice; Welcome the Stranger; Home is Here; Path to Citizenship; Compassion and a banner reading Bienvenides Immigrantes y Refugiados.
The group walked up the narrow Camino Capistrano sidewalk to the Mission’s gate and spread out with their signs to inform motorists about their issues.
“I’ve been with the group for the last three years, working with immigrant families,” explained Eduardo Moreno as he held up the end of the banner. “We are looking for immigrant families who have no support in the community.”
Volunteer Miriam Zuniga is the lead facilitator for the Community Leader Commission here in Capistrano. She directs a large group of adult leaders who especially work with affordable housing. “We’re hoping Bill HR 8433 will pass because it will change the registry dates from 1979 to 2015,” she said. “If you’ve been here since 2015 and have proof of good moral character you can apply for citizenship.”
At one point towards the end of the evening, the group trooped back to the Basilica and offered a closing prayer:
“God, our journey through life is long and hard. We cannot make this trip alone; we must walk together on this journey. Help us to see You in those you send to journey with us.
“In the refugee family, seeking safety from violence, let us see You; In the migrant worker, bringing food to our tables, let us see You; In the asylum-seeker, seeking justice for himself and his family, let us see You; In the unaccompanied child, traveling in a dangerous world, let us See You. Teach us to recognize that as we walked TONIGHT with each other, You are here.”
As people of faith,” said volunteer Heather Chapman, “we believe prayer works. Behind the scenes I don’t know what God is doing but I believe prayer heals.”
“We’re small,” added Connor. “We’re just trying to do something.”
An upcoming prayer walk is scheduled for Sept. 27. For more information visit missionparish.org